In tribute to Everton Weekes
As a tribute to Everton Weekes, one of the greats of cricket, below is an extract from my entry on him in the Dictionary of Latin American and Caribbean Biography.
Weekes, Sir Everton DeCourcy (1925-2020), cricketer, was born on 26 February 1925 in Pickwick Gap, Barbados. His father, a worker on the Trinidadian oil fields, was absent for much of Weekes’ childhood. He and his sister were raised by his mother, Lenore, and his aunt, both of whom were strict disciplinarians and churchgoers. Weekes went to school at St. Leonard’s Boys School from the age of five but left when he was just fourteen years old without having passed an exam. He did not enter formal employment until he was seventeen, when he joined the army. His spare time as a teenager was spent playing cricket and working as a casual groundsman and fielder at the Kensington Oval, which gave him an opportunity to study leading cricketers’ techniques. Weekes was barred from playing for his local team, Pickwick, as it was a whites-only club. Instead he played first for Westshire Cricket Club, a team created to cater for poor, working class boys that played in the Barbados Cricket League rather than the élitist Barbados Cricket Association. On joining the army though he began to play in the Association for the Garrison Sports Club, where he soon gained a reputation as a rising talent.
Weekes made his debut for Barbados in February 1945 aged nineteen – a late age compared to his near contemporaries, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell. This he later attributed to class prejudice on the behalf of selectors as both Worrell and Walcott were from lower-middle class families and combined playing first class cricket with completing their secondary school careers. Weekes’ first major score was 118 not out for Barbados against the touring English side in 1947, which led to him being selected for West Indies for the four Test matches that season. After a slow start he was in danger of being dropped in favour of the ageing George Headley for the final Test of the series. However, Headley was injured and Weekes took full advantage of the reprieve to make 141 in the Test at Kingston, overcoming the hostility of the home crowd who would have preferred a Jamaican to be selected in his place. Having established himself in the West Indies team Weekes went on a golden streak, scoring four consecutive Test centuries in India on the 1948-9 tour, where he averaged over 90 runs per innings. Such heavy scoring invited comparisons with the great Australian batsman Don Bradman. On the tour of England in 1950 Weekes, together with Walcott and Worrell, would become famous as one of the ‘Three Terrible Ws’, who came to epitomize the attacking style of West Indian middle-order batting in the 1950s.
During his Test career Weekes scored 15 centuries and 4,455 runs at a remarkable average of 58.61, the highest of the ‘Three Ws’. His greatest international performances came against Australia on their first visit to the Caribbean in 1955 where his 132 against the tourists is regarded as among the greatest innings seen at the Barbados Oval. Weekes was a short man, yet renowned as one of the hardest hitters in the game; wristy and fleet of foot to spin bowling. Such qualities attracted both crowds and employers and he became a local favourite in the Lancashire League in England, where he played as a professional for Bacup Cricket Club from 1948 to 1958.
Weekes retired from Test cricket relatively early in 1958, when the West Indian Cricket Board was still two years away from appointing its first permanent black captain. While not becoming involved in organized politics Weekes interested himself in radical causes and felt himself drawn to ideas of West Indian federation during the 1950s and 1960s. He also saw himself as a role model for working class black players and continued to play for Barbados, for whom he became the first black person to be formally appointed captain in 1960. After retirement in 1964 he continued to be involved in cricket, coaching at local schools after being appointed a Barbados Government Sports Officer in 1958. In later years he acted as coach to the Canadian cricket team during the World Cup of 1979 and served as an International Cricket Council Referee in 1994. In 1993 he was the third of the ‘Three Ws’ to be awarded a knighthood for services to cricket.
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Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).
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